Hughes blamed pills for Plath's suicide

from: The Times (London) - August 6, 2001

by Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

A letter in which the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes blames his wife's suicide on an adverse reaction to antidepressant drugs is included in an unpublished correspondence acquired by the British Library.

The collection includes more than 140 letters and other documents written to Keith Sagar, his biographer and friend, over a period of 30 years. Some, written 20 years ago, detail the events leading to the suicide of his wife, Sylvia Plath, in 1963.

In one of them Hughes blames antidepressants for his estranged wife's suicide. He suggests that the main factor leading to her death was swallowing the wrong kind of pills, which made her suicidal. Hughes died in 1998 after suffering cancer for 18 months.

Hughes wrote to Mr Sagar that Plath had once before had an adverse reaction to antidepressants. He said she had been given them by her doctor, who did not know the effect the drugs would have on her.

The acquisition of the letters is significant because the Hughes archive was acquired by Emory University in Atlanta in 1997.

Chris Fletcher, curator of modern literary manuscripts at the British Library, said the collection "gives us an exceptionally direct insight into the complex mind of one of the most creative, charismatic and popular national literary figures of the postwar period".

The letters will be put on display as soon as they have been catalogued.

Copyright (C) The Times, 2001

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